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What does a Hypnotist do?

A hypnotist uses guided relaxation techniques to induce a heightened state of focus and suggestibility in a person's mind. This process can help individuals overcome fears, change behaviors, or improve their mental well-being. But how does the science behind hypnosis actually work?
Daniel Liden
Daniel Liden

A hypnotist is one who induces a hypnotic state on his subjects, which usually include audiences or hypnotherapy patients. Such a hypnotic state typically involves strong focus, heightened suggestibility, and decreased awareness of the surrounding environment. A hypnotist typically brings an individual or group to this state through a process of suggestions and instructions. Hypnosis does not always need multiple people; self-induced hypnosis, or autosuggestion, is also a common therapeutic practice.

The term hypnotism was actually derived from the term neurohypnotism, which means “nervous sleep.” Many believe that a hypnotic state is similar to sleep and that a hypnotized individual is actually unconscious and entirely under the control of the hypnotist. This belief is false; scientists have shown that an individual in a hypnotized state is actually fully awake, but in a highly suggestible state.

Hypnotherapy is sometimes used to help smokers quit.
Hypnotherapy is sometimes used to help smokers quit.

A skilled hypnotist could choose to do one of many different things with his abilities, as hypnotism has uses in the fields of medicine, therapy, and performing arts. Hypnotherapy, or hypnosis used for therapeutic purposes, has been used, with varying degrees of success, to treat a wide variety of physical and psychological afflictions. Stage hypnosis is likely the most widely-known form of hypnosis; stage hypnotists hypnotize willing audience members and set them to a variety of unusual activities.

Hypnosis may be used for entertainment purposes.
Hypnosis may be used for entertainment purposes.

Hypnotists have used hypnotherapy in many different clinical situations, and have had great success in some. A hypnotist can, in some cases, help an individual to reduce pain from almost any source and can aid in weight loss. Hypnotists are often employed to help people overcome addictions. Sometimes, hypnotherapy is simply used as a method of relaxation for those with high stress or sleeping problems. Hypnotherapy has even been used, with encouraging results, as a treatment of irritable bowel syndrome.

Hypnotherapy may be beneficial in treating irritable bowel syndrome.
Hypnotherapy may be beneficial in treating irritable bowel syndrome.

In stage hypnosis, the hypnotist is working purely to entertain the audience, often in a club or theater. Often, the hypnotist will utilize a variety of deceptive, showy stage tricks to fool the audience into believing that they are truly hypnotized, though some degree of actual hypnosis may be involved. Generally, stage hypnotists take advantage of a combination of normal human suggestibility and of the social pressure exuded by the rest of the members of the audience. In some cases, stage hypnotists will whisper commands to volunteers out of earshot of the rest of the audience. Those who do not resist or challenge the suggestion of the stage hypnotist, though, may very well find themselves hypnotized.

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Discussion Comments


@hamje32 - That’s interesting. I think that most of us have gotten our ideas of hypnosis from the movies. One thing I’ve been told is that, contrary to what you see in film, people can’t be hypnotized unless they want to be.

In other words, you can’t force people to do immoral things under hypnosis. Their moral and ethical faculties are still intact, something which should set our minds at ease about this practice, whether or not we believe in it.


I used to be a skeptic when it came to hypnosis, until I saw it demonstrated live, right before my eyes. Our company had a banquet with a few of our customers and as part of the evening’s event we invited a hypnotist to perform.

This guy then asked if any of our employees would like to volunteer to be hypnotized, and several came forward. He put them to sleep and then began making suggestions for them to act out in certain behaviors.

At first I thought the whole thing was contrived, but when I saw how carried away the employees were – and they kept a straight face the whole time – I could see that they were clearly under a spell.

None of the antics performed were embarrassing as such but some of them were quite humorous. This one lady was under the suggestion that she was watching a very funny movie, and she rolled in almost uncontrollable laughter! We joined along.


@bagley79 - My brother actually went to school to be trained as a hypnotist. This was a one year program that he attended in the evenings while he was working full time.

That is the only reason I know there are approved schools where someone can be trained to become a hypnotist. I don't know how much he paid for this program, but I don't think it was cheap.

There are also a lot of programs and tutorials online, but I would look at these with caution. Just like anything there are good programs, and a lot of scams as well.

Anyone who is interested can become a hypnotist. My brother says it is a skill, and like learning any kind of skill, it takes practice.

I am glad I didn't live close to him when he was going through this training. I have a feeling he would have liked to have practiced learning this skill on me.

You should be able to learn some skills practicing on yourself, but for many hypnotist skills, it would probably be best if you have willing volunteers.


What kind of hypnotist training does someone need to go through? I have never heard of any kind of college degree for something like this. I would think there would be some kind of standard or certification process they would need to complete.

If I went to a hypnotist I would want to make sure they were qualified and knew what they were doing. I think this is an area that would be easy to get some untrustworthy people who were just trying to make some money.

The times I have seen a comedy hypnotist work a crowd, I have been very fascinated by the whole process. I also wonder if there is a difference in the way someone hypnotizes people in a crowd vs how they would if someone came to their office for a hypnotherapy session.


I really don't understand much about how the process of hypnosis works, other than it did work for me.

I am one of those people who has tried everything to lose weight and keep it off. One of my best friends was able to stop smoking after some hypnotist sessions.

She told me that it might also help me lose weight. I was pretty nervous about it at first, wondering what it would be like and how I would feel.

The hypnotist was very professional and made me feel comfortable. I am sure he is used to people feeling pretty uneasy about the whole thing.

I still don't understand how it works, but know that I left there with more discipline and motivation to lose weight than I ever had before.

Since then I have lost 25 pounds, and have been able to keep it off for 8 months.


When I was in high school I played the part of a hypnotist in a play. Through this person I hypnotized, we were able to determine who the real killer was.

I went through the motions of what a hypnotist might do with a person, even though I had no idea what I was actually doing.

Even though this was purely for entertainment, I have often wondered if hypnotherapy really works. It makes you wonder if someone would reveal information they would normally be guarded about if they were hypnotized.

If most people wanted to keep a secret, they would probably not agree to be hypnotized if given the choice. I find this practice to be very interesting and intriguing at the same time.


I had a hypnosis session last week with a clinical hypnotist for the first time in my life. It was really interesting. I don't agree that one is completely awake during hypnosis. I think it's a state of mind that is between awake and asleep. Like the conscious part of me was asleep but the subconscious was awake.

I do remember everything my hypnotist and I spoke about during the session and what I felt throughout, so in that sense I was definitely awake and aware of what's going on. But I also felt like I had access to a part of my brain that I never had access to before. The hypnotist was directing me and giving me directions, but I had full control over everything I did mentally.


@MrsWinslow-- I think hypnosis is pretty successful with treating addictions. My grandfather actually stopped smoking with a hypnotist's help.

He was diagnosed with bladder cancer which was basically caused by his terrible smoking habit. He had a really hard time quitting though and decided to visit a hypnotist about it.

What he told me is that he was not 'hypnotized' like they show in movies. He and the hypnotist had a down-to-earth discussion about what his reasons for smoking was. I guess the hypnotist was really convincing because my grandfather walked out of that office and never lit another cigarette again. The tumors in his bladder were removed and he's doing great now.

I don't know if every hypnotist works the same way but this was how my grandfather's hypnotist worked.


I've always wanted to go to a hypnotist for hypnotherapy. I've been struggling with depression for a long time and have been to many psychologists for my problem. But despite this, I don't feel that I've gotten very far.

I have the impression that hypnotist are better able to connect with the person they're treating and help them open up their subconscious for whatever that is bothering them. I don't know if this impression is entirely true but I would really like to visit a hypnotist sometime. Maybe he can help me go back to my childhood and express myself better because I feel that this is where my problems are stemming from.

Has anyone gotten this kind of hypnotist therapy for psychological ailments? How was it? Do you think it works?


@ElizaBennett - That's really interesting about HypnoBirthing. I'm trying to conceive right now and I'll have to look into that if I do succeed in getting pregnant.

My favorite uncle was able to quit smoking with a hypnotist's help. He had tried using nicotine patches on his own, but never really got anywhere, and he never found a cognitive behavioral therapist that he liked. So instead, he tried hypnosis in combination with the patches and that's the thing that helped him.

I read that a study showed hypnosis was as effective as CBT for quitting smoking - which probably means that neither one works for everyone! I think anyone who is serious about quitting smoking should be prepare to try several methods and not be embarrassed or apologetic if one doesn't work for you.


I've seen some pretty entertaining hypnotist shows. The best ones, in my opinion, avoid humiliating their subjects and instead just get them to act rather silly. My understanding, however, is that it is almost impossible to get someone to do something that they woud not normally be willing to do. You can't hypnotize someone to commit murder, for instance, unless that's something they would normally do!

Something that not everyone might realize is that many people can hypnotize themselves! One application for that is in childbirth. Methods like HypnoBirthing teach the mother to hypnotize herself as a means of achieving natural childbirth. I didn't try it myself, but I have a friend who swears by it.

You don't really put yourself in a trance, apparently - it's just a matter of training yourself to sort of float in a state of deep relaxation.

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    • Hypnotherapy is sometimes used to help smokers quit.
      By: nito
      Hypnotherapy is sometimes used to help smokers quit.
    • Hypnosis may be used for entertainment purposes.
      By: Sinisa Botas
      Hypnosis may be used for entertainment purposes.
    • Hypnotherapy may be beneficial in treating irritable bowel syndrome.
      By: joshya
      Hypnotherapy may be beneficial in treating irritable bowel syndrome.
    • Hypnotism has uses in the fields of medicine, therapy and performing arts.
      By: James Steidl
      Hypnotism has uses in the fields of medicine, therapy and performing arts.
    • Someone with high stress or sleeping problems may benefit from hypnotherapy.
      By: Johan Larson
      Someone with high stress or sleeping problems may benefit from hypnotherapy.
    • A hypnotist must have the appropriate emotional and mental well-being to treat clients.
      By: Ambrophoto
      A hypnotist must have the appropriate emotional and mental well-being to treat clients.
    • Being in a state of hypnosis often involves a decreased awareness of the surrounding environment.
      By: karelnoppe
      Being in a state of hypnosis often involves a decreased awareness of the surrounding environment.